LCSD No. 2 Education Foundation rolls out the Star Valley College Gateway program
• SVHS students can now earn an associate degree with their high school diploma.
Lincoln County School District No. 2 Education Foundation is announcing the Star Valley College Gateway, which is being implemented to provide increased concurrent enrollment courses and create opportunities for students to earn their associate degree along with their high school diploma.
According to Tim Hale, Chairman of the Board with The Education Foundation, students will be able to graduate from Star Valley High School with college and university credits, earning them an Associate Degree from Western Wyoming Community College, Utah State University or Brigham Young University-Idaho.
“This means that a graduate of Star Valley High School could enter most colleges or universities as a junior, saving him or her two years of post-secondary education,” said Hale in an announcement document shared with SVI Media last week. “This will be accomplished by upgrading and expanding the already fine program of concurrent classes being offered at the high school. A concurrent class is one where not only high school credit, but college credit is offered to those who complete it.”
Any student attending SVHS who wishes to participate in the Gateway program can visit with a guidance counselor to plan their educational track to completing an associate degree in conjunction with completing their high school diploma. Freshmen students can start planning and taking their Star Valley College Gateway high school track now.
Classes taught at the high school that students can take for college credit must be taught by an instructor with a master’s degree or Ph.D., or have completed an additional 18 hours of credit after their bachelor’s degree in the specific subject. All teachers in the program will be evaluated by the institutions granting the college credit.
Additionally, if the class is taught on site by an SVHS teacher, there is no cost to the student for the college credit. Jason Horsley, who serves as a Director of Education with LCSD No. 2, explained how this is possible in an interview with Duke Dance on the SVI Radio Network’s Weekday Wakeup this morning. “Concurrent enrollment through our community college system in the State of Wyoming is paid for by the State of Wyoming.”
Hale added that, “The financial savings to students and parents amounts to thousands of dollars over regular college freshman and sophomore study. In addition to that, there are no housing and food plans required since the student lives at home during high school years. University of Wyoming Hathaway scholarships can still be applied to Junior and Senior college years on campus.”
Allen Stauffer, who represented The Foundation in the interview with Duke Dance, expects that this program could save the average Star Valley family as much as $30,000 or more. “As the cost of college tuition nationwide is going through the roof and people are having a tremendous problem paying off their college debt, what better way than this, that they get two years basically free, by working a little harder on concurrent classes while they’re in high school.”
“The more courses we can offer a student in high school, the closer they are to getting that associate degree,” shared Horsley. “Students may not finish that associate degree, but if we have courses in the right content area, then they’re more likely to transfer to any university or college that they go to. We’re trying to increase our concurrent enrollment offerings in specific areas that are meaningful, such as Math, Science, English, as well as business and our CTE [Career and Technical Education] offerings as well.”
Several teachers at SVHS already have the credentials required to teach the concurrent enrollment classes, but The Foundation is implementing a program to create an incentive for additional teachers in the district to work towards to a master’s degree or add 18 appropriate credit hours. The Foundation is seeking funding to pay for those teachers to complete additional study, which would qualify them to teach concurrent enrollment courses. Teachers who are interested may now apply to the Foundation for this funding. The Foundation is also seeking willing Star Valley residents who already have the credentials needed to teach in this program.
“We are looking into the possibility that there are people in this Valley who have moved here or retired here who have Masters or Ph.D. degrees or have been college teachers themselves that might be interested in teaching some of these classes in the high school,” said Stauffer. “We already have two or three people who have indicated that they would be interested.”
The Foundation has a plan to raise money specifically for the purpose of funding additional education for teachers who are interested in qualifying to teach the Gateway courses. “We will be doing fundraising and have campaigns,” explained Stauffer. “We already have a lot of good leads to people who would probably help finance this.”
“We have offered concurrent enrollment credit for quite some time,” said Horsley. “Right now, we have about 12 courses offering around 27 total credits, but that’s down from what we’ve had in the past at Star Valley High School. Some of our teachers who had the credentials to give college credit have since retired, and we haven’t been able to replace them with a teacher who has a master’s degree or 18 additional credits towards an appropriate content area.”
The Foundation will continue to work with colleges and universities to build the program, and the community is invited to get involved by adopting a teacher to fund the upgrading of their qualifications, as well as identifying individuals who are already qualified.
Stauffer offered some insight, encouraging students who enter the Gateway program to push to complete it. “We have learned from those who use this kind of program that a university will accept an associate degree almost without question, but class by class, they will scrutinize very carefully, and some might not accept them.”
“We think this is going to be paying it forward if we can support teachers to get that advanced degree in order to teach and give that credit,” concluded Horsley. “It will just pay off for generations for our students to be able to receive free college credit in our high school. So, partnering with The Foundation, we are really excited to increase the offerings at Star Valley High School for meaningful concurrent enrollment.”
Individuals interested in supporting the Gateway program as instructors, or with funding, can visit The Foundation’s website at lcsd2.org/education-